2011 US Open: What Rory McIlroy and Others Just Did to the 2012 US Open
The US Open prides itself on being the most difficult tournament in the world.
In 2011, that reputation took a big hit. By the winning score alone, it was a middle of the pack PGA Tour tournament this year, and it will almost certainly be the lowest scoring major of 2011, at least in relation to par.
But just for fun, let's pretend Rory McIlroy didn't do what he did. Runner-up Jason Day was one of 19 other players to break par. In doing so, his score of -8 tied him for the third best US Open score in history.
The only problem for Day is that McIlroy did do what he did. Both in terms of strokes taken and relation to par, McIlroy smashed the US Open scoring records. Now, we have to do nothing but wait for the USGA to overreact.
In 2000, Tiger Woods was -12 at Pebble Beach. That's a big score, but he was so dominant that the USGA seemed to realize that his performance was more a sign of one dominant player than an easy setup.
McIlroy's performance was dominant, but the setup was also easy.
Now, a big part of the reason that it was easy was because of the weather. The Washington DC area received a lot of rain, which is typical. Naturally, the rain wet the course for the week, which makes pins much more accessible.
Still, I look for the USGA to react in a similar way to how they reacted after 2003, which, top to bottom, was a much easier US Open than 2000.
The 2003 US Open was won by Jim Furyk at -8. The scoreboard for the week was filled with rounds in the 60's. Vijay Singh even shot a 63.
The next few did not produce such scores.
In 2004, the US Open returned to Shinnecock Hills. The USGA kept that course so dry that when a giant windstorm hit on Saturday night, it left the course with virtually no water. Greens were nearly impossible to hold.
Then, they went to Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005. Actually, this was a relatively fair US Open, as Michael Campbell won at even par, two shots better than Tiger Woods.
Then, 2006 at Winged Foot and 2007 at Oakmont each produced winning scores at +5. Was that still a hangover from 2003, or are those two venues just the toughest of the tough?
Well, those may be the most challenging US Open venues, but it's hard to not think that the USGA wasn't still reacting to what happened in 2003. Or at the very least, trying very hard to allow those courses to keep their challenging reputations.
After all, that wasn't exactly the first time.
In 1973, Johnny Miller shot a final round 63 to win at Oakmont. His score for the week was -5, and he was one of five players to finish in red numbers.
The next year gave us the Massacre at Winged Foot. Hale Irwin won that tournament at +7 and the rumor is that the USGA set the course up because they were embarrassed by what happened the year before.
That may or may not be true. Even if it was, that was nearly 40 years ago, who's to say that they will react the same way?
Well, they may not go as overboard, but it will be a far tougher tournament.
Expectations were that the 2011 US Open would produce an over par winning score. That didn't happen. Next year will probably be a different story.
Now, the US Open next year is at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. While 2011 has been a damp summer by Northern California standards, the area just does not get significant rains in mid-June. As a matter of fact, any rain in mid-June is significant.
Sure, we Northern Californians know that fog is a big part of the San Francisco climate. Fog can certainly dampen the course.
Another big part of San Francisco's summer climate is its unpredictability; look for the USGA to make that as irrelevant as is possible.
What will the winning score of the 2012 US Open be?
The Olympic Club is already a challenging course. The last US Open there produced a winning score of even par.
Additionally, the pin placement on the 18th hole on Saturday drew complaints that the setup was unfair.
The USGA certainly knows that they can't control the weather. They also know that the weather was largely responsible for this year's low scores.
Just don't expect it to matter much.
In 2011, Rory McIlroy became only the third golfer in US Open history to complete all four rounds in the 60's. If you liked seeing that, then the 2012 US Open will probably not be for you.
Do you like seeing the best golfers struggle? Do you like bogeys? Do you like seeing a round of a couple shots over par be good enough to gain ground? If you answered yes to any of those, you should spend next Father's Day in San Francisco.
So what am I calling for? Well, making it tough to find the green when missing the fairway is fine. A fear is that the already narrow fairways will become rock hard. In turn, even good shots will find that thick rough. That's not necessary; good shots should be rewarded.
It's okay to make it hard to get up and down from a long distance on the green or from off of it. But if someone hits a good shot, they should be rewarded with a quality birdie opportunity.
Don't put the pins in a place where a putt that would normally go a foot or two beyond the hole will now go to 10 feet or beyond.
Ultimately, the USGA just needs to realize that what happened this year was more of an act of God than anything else.
Maybe they didn't plan for predictable weather in the Washington area well enough, lesson learned. The only hope is that they won't now go overboard to allow for weather that rarely hits the Bay Area.
Will they do that? I guess we'll have to wait and see.
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